Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
I know the month isn’t quite over, but I wanted to share all the fun books I’ve been reading lately. Now that I’m fully recovered from my concussion, I feel like I’m back to my usual reading self.
Normally, I don’t highlight any books I’ve read that haven’t been published yet, preferring to save them for my monthly new release write-up. I don’t want the two posts to be identical, but sometimes I read so many advance releases (like this month) that my monthly reading list feels a little too shallow without them.
From now on, each month I will highlight one advanced review that I’ve recently read. This month I’m highlighting a highly anticipated new release from a Nobel Prize winner.
I hope by featuring the books I’ve been reading lately, you’ll be able to discover which books belong on your to-read list.
February Reading List
In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro ponders the meaning of love through an unusual narrator. Klara is a robot, an Artificial Friend waiting to be bought and taken home to be a companion to a lonely child. Ishiguro’s brilliant writing brings Klara to life, with her keen observations about the world around her, forcing you to piece together complex situations as perceived through the lens of innocence. The story was just shy of being amazing like The Remains of the Day; it didn’t quite have the depth I wanted. However, if you want a thoughtful read, you can’t go wrong with Ishiguro’s newest release.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Knopf through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
For years, Lex Gracie has been running from her past. Raised in a House of Horrors, she infamously escaped and freed her older brother and younger siblings. After her mother dies in prison, Lex must visit each of her siblings to determine what to do with the house. Through each visit, you learn more about their horrendous childhood and how each has grappled with the unspeakable trauma.
Although I enjoyed the book, I felt the writing and marketing tried to mistakenly force it into a psychological thriller. Unfortunately, the story didn’t have enough suspense to carry it, the jumping timelines made the plot hard to follow, and the big reveal felt overdone. Instead, Girl A‘s strength lies in its character study of the aftermath of trauma and if Dean had leaned more into that, I think the book could have been brilliant.
Fifteen years after their teenage son, Ray-Ray, was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family still keenly feels his death. Combining the real and the spiritual, The Removed highlights the deep scars trauma causes to a family. Maria struggles to handle her husband’s growing dementia when a foster child who reminds them of Ray-Ray enters their lives. Older sister Sonja switches between a lonely existence and obsessive romance while younger brother Edgar has fallen into drug addiction.
The Removed is a hard book for me to review. First off, it’s a very literary work and I wanted to love it, but it just didn’t reach the levels I expected. The most compelling storyline was of the parents; those chapters and the mythology sections hinted at Hobson’s brilliance. However, I wanted the ending to tie it all together into some powerful message, and instead, it left me unsatisfied.
During World War II, a young Jewish woman must hide as a Christian in the Italian countryside to avoid deportation. Forced to give up studying for the priesthood to run his family’s farm, Nico Gerardi agrees to protect Nina, pretending that she is his new bride. As Nina and Nico struggle to keep up the charade, their relationship deepens while the suspicions of a local Nazi officer grow.
Jennifer Robson’s new release felt like just your standard World War II story – nothing made it stand out from the rest of the genre. While Nina made for a good heroine, Nico’s character was so flat that I craved some nuance. If you love WWII stories, you’ll enjoy this one, just don’t expect it to fall in the same league as All the Light We Cannot See or The Nightingale.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from William Morrow. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Although ranked at the top of her law school class, Christie Tate kept fantasizing about suicide. Her therapist Dr. Rosen recommended she join his weekly psychotherapy group session where he promises that if she shows up and is completely honest, her life will change. With its constant stream of sexual situations, Christie’s tell-all memoir probably told a little too much. However, the biggest issue with Group is the ethically questionable practices of her therapist. I suggest skipping this one for Lori Gottlieb’s better-written memoir, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.
Melissa de la Cruz
Nothing ever happens in North Pasadena, California. But one day as Filomena Jefferson-Cho is walking to the bookstore to get the thirteenth book in her favorite fairy tale series, Filomena finds herself face to face with characters from the books – Jack Stalker and Alistair. Soon Filomena finds herself pulled into Never After in a battle against the ogres.
I was rather surprised when the first book in the Never After series showed up at my door because I don’t review middle-grade fiction. However, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to start reading aloud to my children each night. I thought the story was fine, nothing especially noteworthy but a fun twist on the fairy tales. My children, on the other hand, loved it. They were enthralled with the adventures and can’t wait for the next book to come out in December.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Roaring Book Press. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
Simone St. James
In 1950, four roommates become friends as whispers of a ghost haunt the halls of their rural Vermont boarding school. When a body is found in 2014, a young journalist haunted by the murder of her sister dives into history and begins to question her sister’s death.
With a little bit mystery, a little bit horror, and a little bit historical fiction, it’s hard to pin down what genre best describes The Broken Girls. At first, I was terribly confused with the timelines, confusing the 1950s with the sister’s death in 1994, but once I got that straight I enjoyed the disparate stories. Yet, I kept expecting a clever twist to tie everything up in one neat little bow, and when it didn’t happen, I was a bit disappointed. More realistic, I know, but not quite as satisfying. A fun atmospheric read if you want something a bit spooky but not too scary.
Whether you are a list kind of person or not, Atul Gawande will convert you to the power of checklists. Using fascinating stories, he’ll show you that the power of checklists helps make complex systems more manageable. Gawande explores how checklists have revolutionized air travel and construction, Using the same methods, he explains how he was able to introduce the same remarkable benefits in a surgical checklist and focuses on why such a powerful tool is often disregarded. A quick read, The Checklist Manifesto has the same investigative reporting feel I love to read, similar to Malcolm Gladwell or Charles Duhigg.
Struggling to make ends meet, Hal Westaway is startled to receive a letter saying she is a beneficiary to the estate of her grandmother. Although she knows it’s a case of mistaken identity, Hal decides to try to use her greatest asset – her ability to read people – in a desperate attempt to claim some of the money.
Having now read all of Ruth Ware’s thrillers, I have to say The Death of Mrs. Westaway is one of my favorites. I loved the twists and turns, and while the ending was a tad predictable, I thought she timed her reveals well to keep the story from growing stale. The atmosphere was just what I wanted from a creepy read – a gothic house, a dysfunctional family, and layers of secrets.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back in March to see which ones I read.
What books did you read in February?